There are major obstacles to overcome to get into nude photography, not least of which is the need to practise technique. By its very nature there has to be at least one subject, and the big problem for the photographer here is image. To some the image of nude photographer is tied in with the “dirty Macintosh” brigade, with the false wig and dark glasses.
Not everyone believes the adage that an erotic photograph, does not have to be nude, and a nude photograph is not necessarily erotic. The biggest challenge is to find a suitable model, and certainly in small town rural backwater areas, it is not the brightest propaganda move to put an advertisement in the Post Office window. It is also suspect to approach someone in the street.
Impeccable credentials help here, an image of a bona fide photographer, with a studio, and a business card with a portfolio. A professionally created business card also helps; a ripped off part of an old envelope invites suspicion. It is not necessary to have a portfolio of nudes, but it is essential as an aid of creating the feeling of trust. It can be very helpful to not tell a prospective model what you do, but show them, and depending on their responses take it from there.
A lot of nude photographers start with a self portrait an this is better than nothing in some cases. There are several other methods that can be used to find people to model. Your first option is to hire professional (glamour) models. That can be expensive, and they’re not often familiar with that type of work. The second option is to hire amateur models, or perhaps even nude still life models, the problem here is that the latter will have no inhibitions taking their clothes off, and may be able to sit still and hold a specific pose for long periods of time, however they may not be the best models to animate themselves. The third option is not to pay a model at all, but find someone with a vested interest in making a portfolio work. Whilst thinking about this matter during the research for this article it occurred to me, that the ideal person, would be someone who would be prepared to model in exchange for a portfolio, or other photographic service. In other words, a model who has a reason to make the session work will undoubtedly put more effort into overcoming any technical difficulties. Perhaps you know someone who is pregnant who might want to model in exchange for the photos.
Secondly that type of model will produce better results, than some eighteen year olds with a perfect body and a bad attitude. A personal model with enthusiasm to explore different perspectives and techniques has to produce better results than a wooden, but perfect doll. It does not alter the fact that your model must be at peace with the thought of nude modelling as a whole, but a sensitive relationship with the photographer will work wonders here. The rules are no different for a photographer here than a portrait photographer, he or she must first have self confidence. If you cannot get that across to your model he or she will be reluctant to give it their best shot.
This type of photography is striving for a look that is natural, and even has a look that it has not been posed for at all. Comfort is essential not just physical comfort though that is important, but mental comfort, the model must be able to understand the concept behind what you are trying to do so that she can co-operate. You have to take the time to explain the techniques of flattering compositions, but equally the model has to work on being fluid and graceful in these motions.
A good relationship with your model built on confidence is essential when you come to evaluate and criticise the work. Your first session will create the tone for future work, but that is when a model will be her most nervous, a way of getting over this barrier might be to ask her to come accompanied, and that may make for a lighter more relaxed session.
Working with the same model over a number of sessions builds up a rapport, and helps the model learn what works in the images, and what doesn’t. She has to be able to see the completed image, before this is really possible. As the model becomes more familiar with how you work and experiences the crucial processes of making an image, the model becomes better at generating poses which work for you, and on the whole, the number of successful images increases.
Recommended Readings on Fine Art Nude Photography
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